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Hike in Trabuco Canyon

For those of you who follow me closely on my blog or Facebook, you may have heard I recently traded in my little 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer for the car of my dreams: a Silver 2000 Toyota 4Runner 4x4. Yes, it's old, but it really is the car of my dreams and has been for years. I prefer it much more over the newer models.

Having a little front-wheel-drive 4-banger as my only mode of transportation for over 8 years has mostly restricted me to paved roads, which isn't ideal for my line of work. So, needless to say, my "new" 4Runner will be getting lots of use in the dirt.

I had a rare day off last Saturday with nothing planned. But if you take a landscape photographer, a mostly-cloudy day, an empty schedule and a 4x4...you've got yourself a recipe for off-roading. So I loaded up my gear and headed out for a solo trip up to the Trabuco Canyon trail in the Cleveland National Forest. For those of you familiar with the area, it's near the Holy Jim Falls trailhead.

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

While off-roading to the trailhead, blasting through mud and creeks, I fell in love. That's right. I fell in love with my 4Runner. And I'm not ashamed of it. She knows how to make me happy. She never asks for apologies. No. She only gives.

*ahem* Anyway...

The Trabuco Canyon Trail is gorgeous, by the way. One of the most beautiful in OC, in my opinion. It really feels secluded. One of the coolest aspects of this trail is the old, rusty car laying in ruins among the forest. I had photographed this car back in 2003 when I was just a wee lad of 15. I was shooting Fuji Velvia transparency film in my Minolta Maxxum 7D. Eight years later, I decided to get a refreshed take on it using my digital. I actually like the older shot better compositionally and in terms of color and contrast, but I'm sure I'll be back soon to have at it again. I hope to go back in the next few weeks to see if I can get some flowers around it and fine-tune the composition for a little more impact.

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail
^ The original shot taken on slide film in 2003

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

^ My modern-day "refresh"

Hmm...makes me kind of miss film. I love the saturation and greens of Velvia. Here are the rest of my shots from the day...

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

Trabuco Canyon Hiking Trail

There you have it. The entire day was gorgeous with passing clouds, mild temperatures and plenty of solitude. Looking forward to going back soon.

Joshua Tree Wildflowers

I went out with one of my advanced students for a private one-on-one lesson in Joshua Tree National Park last week. With the recent rains and subsequent warm weather, I was pretty optimistic that the wildflowers would be bloomin'.

Well...They were.

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

We saw all sorts of flowers on the drive in, but we decided to stop and shoot at a location in the south end of the park where Desert Dandelions blanketed the ground near a beautiful overlook of the Pinto Basin and Pinto Mountains to the North. The stunning colors and views combined with the mild weather and good company of my student made the trip a real pleasure. Had we thought to bring bug repellant, the day would have been perfect! Click the panoramas for larger versions.

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

And here's a helpful link for you all where you can check the status of the wildflower bloom throughout the Southwest: http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html

Death Valley Trip: Day 2

Whew! It's been a busy, busy week, but I finally got through the images from my second day in Death Valley National Park. To see the Day 1 pictures, click here.

Day 2 was one hell of an experience. Apparently nature didn't think gale force winds at 282 feet below sea level was enough of a challenge for me on Day 1, so she decided to throw some rain, hail and snow at me.

Joshua Trees in Snow - Death Valley National Park, CA

As we made our way out of the park, a storm was making its way in. Luckily, it held off long enough for us to cook a hot breakfast of pancakes, sausage and eggs (my brother and I really know how to camp). As we ascended out of Death Valley into the Panamint Mountains, the clouds got darker, the rain got heavier and, eventually, that rain turned into snow.

Needless to say, I had to pull over and take some time to document this awesome weather. With the wind still blowing strong, the snow seemed to come in at a 90-degree angle, almost scraping across the ground instead of falling on it. We froze our asses off, but it was a lot of fun.

Snow in Death Valley National Park, CA

As we continued out of the park, I stopped at a gorgeous overlook of Panamint Valley. The storm clouds were hanging low over the mountains, creating layers that only a painter could appreciate. It was begging for a panorama, so I have 2 here that are slight variations (click each to view a larger version).

Panamint Valley Storm - Death Valley National Park, CA

Panamint Valley Storm - Death Valley National Park, CA

Storm in Death Valley National Park, CA

Storm in Death Valley National Park, CA

Intermittent rain with a short bout of hail made taking pictures quite a challenge. I don't worry too much about rain hitting the camera so long as it isn't a downpour, but keeping droplets off the front of my filters was a never-ending battle. I don't like having to hold an umbrella over my camera, so I resorted to blocking it with my hand during shots and wiping them clean every few snaps. It ended up working out okay.

I thought I was done taking pictures for the trip after this stunning view of Panamint Valley, but then we saw the Joshua Trees down the road...Joshua Trees in a snow storm.

I've been dying to photograph Joshua Trees in snow for years. Although these shots aren't exactly what I had in mind (due to the lackluster overcast sky and accompanying drab lighting), I was thrilled to finally capture some of these desert yuccas blanketed in snow like a Christmas Tree.

Joshua Trees in Snow - Death Valley National Park, CA

Joshua Trees in Snow - Death Valley National Park, CA

I don't normally convert my images to black and white or add vignettes, but this image was asking for it.

Joshua Trees in Snow - Death Valley National Park, CA

That's all of 'em! I hope you enjoyed looking at my pictures from Death Valley. I can't wait to go back and try my hand at some of these locations again!